It takes a special kind of driver to win a rally, but to come back to that same rally year on year and keep on winning it is nothing short of incredible.
Ken Block isn’t shy of the top step of the podium – indeed, he has won 18 rallies in his native United States. But no rally has been as happy a hunting ground for Block than the 100 Acre Wood Rally; an event he will try to win for the eighth time this weekend in a Škoda Fabia R5+.
Now then is as good a time as ever for DirtFish to look back and pick out five of his best wins in Missouri on stages Block ranks as some of his favorite anywhere in the world.
The 2010 season was a pivotal shift in Block’s career as he left the Subaru stable and signed with Ford. That meant Block headed to the stages with a brand-new and unproven ride – the Fiesta RS Open.
Any concerns it wouldn’t be quick were soon extinguished on the 100 Acre Wood Rally as he defeated Travis Pastrana and Antoine L’Estage – despite both having stronger pace – who faltered to varying degrees.
The win was a landmark one as it was Block’s first for Ford and drew him level with John Buffum on the 100 Acre Wood roll of honor with five victories.
What sounds better than six 100 Acre wins? Seven. Block thought the same in 2014, and after his first ever non-victory on the event in 2013 (he retired with mechanical trouble), Block and Alex Gelsomino returned to the top of the rostrum in dominant fashion as they beat Travis Pastrana and Christine Beavis by 4m58.5s.
The winning margin perhaps flattered the pair as David Higgins and Craig Drew fought them hard before suffering engine issues, and Antoine L’Estage and Marshall Clarke also retired with overheating issues.
Pastrana was also not at full pace on his first rally in three years, but Block fully deserved the plaudits as he led from start to finish to become a seven-time winner of his favorite American rally.
Block’s first win on the 100 Acre Wood Rally wasn’t just his first victory there but his first victory anywhere. A near one-minute victory in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI was the start of the Block legend, and he began things in style.
Up against the likes of Subaru team-mate Travis Pastrana and Tanner Foust, among others, Block was trading times with Pastrana throughout the opening day and lay second overnight, but broke into the lead when Pastrana retired.
He eventually edged out Alfredo ‘Dedo’ De Dominicis and Andrew Pinker, who completed the podium on what was a historic and momentous day in both Block’s life and rallying career.
Winning once is tricky, but doubling up and winning a second time is almost more difficult. Block put that theory to bed on the 2007 100 Acre Wood Rally however, recording his second of five successive wins there by beating Subaru Rally Team USA team-mate Travis Pastrana in a straight fight.
On the first leg conditions were dry and Block stretched his legs, but for the second and final day the heavens opened and Pastrana kept on Block’s tail. In the end, just 7.2s separated the two Imprezas with Block doing enough to keep Pastrana at arm’s length.
“I have to have one every once in a while,” Block joked to the then reigning Rally America Champion.
After skipping the 100 Acre Wood Rally in 2011, Block started the 2012 event with a record-breaking sixth victory in his sights. However, he’d have to do it with a brand-new car as he debuted the new Ford Fiesta HFHV (Hybrid Function Hooning Vehicle) – which would go on to be used in rallycross – in Missouri.
It was his sixth 100 Acre start and it would yield Block’s sixth victory – a result that elevated him to the top of the rally’s winners’ list all on his own. What made it sweeter was he edged Subaru’s David Higgins, a driver who has and always will be a yardstick in US rallying, to the win.
Block won an incredible 15 stages from 17 to win by 29.3s despite two punctures and suspension damage.
“I’m stoked about winning my sixth rally in the 100 Acre Wood,” said Block at the time. “The battle against David Higgins was intense on every stage.
“He’s the current Rally America champ and one of the people who helped teach me how to race a rally car when I first got started, so to finally compete against him on this level was great.”